Monday, 16 October 2006

Is it a sport or a skill?

I've never liked golf. And, my dislike doesn't really have anything to do with the game as much as the extensive television coverage. Have you ever tried running for 60-minutes on a treadmill with only golf to watch?

I'm a treadmill junkie and for years I've vaguely watched golf, tennis, cricket, soccer and rugby purely because they're screened at gym 24/7. These are 5 major sports and I've never been partial to any of them. My favourite month is July, when Tour de France dominates because I run like the wind, keeping pace with the cyclists. I also enjoy coverage of marathons (Olympic), track (everything from 100m - 10 000m), summer winter Olympics (variety and novelty viewing) and anything that has a bit of pace and is inspirational (I'd love to run 3:20 kilometers).

Tim plays golf and I always tease him about this game being a skill and not a sport. I appreciate the dexterity, agility and hours and hours of practise that it takes to make the little white ball go where you want it, but there's no heart rate acceleration due to physical effort (I'm talking extended time over 140bpm, not just stress/pressure/tension related increases).

A sport is defined as an activity requiring physical ability, physical fitness or physical skill which usually, but not always, involves competition between two or more people.

A skill is defined as an ability, usually learned and acquired through training, to perform actions.

So, it seems that there's a bit of skill in sport and no sport in skill... ?

Consider orienteering... it's definitely a sport of skill and it's this dimension that keeps me coming back for more. Over the years I've minimised the destruction my errors cause but there's still room for (a lot) of improvement. I have never had an absolutely perfect run; there's the 30-seconds wasted here and the less-desireable route-option there... In striving for that 'perfect run', I'll keep coming back till I'm well over-the-hill. The mental appeal will outlive my physical prowess.

Then, we get back to golf...
I went with Tim to a driving range about 2-weeks ago. I sat and watched the people and enjoyed the evening air. I tried my hand at the chipping green and felt like I was playing putt-putt; and it was pretty fun. But, I also wanted to whack the ball and see whether I could make it fly on the driving range. Defending my pride and ego, I decided to phone the place and arrange for a lesson so that the next time I went I'd at least know how to hold the club...

Well, I had my first lesson on Saturday... and troops, I hope it's not too late for me to make my fortune as a pro. That little white devil flew as straight as an arrow and a number of times missed the hole by no more than a meter or three. What a kick! And my new coach was thrilled. I booked another lesson for next week.

Would you believe... I went to the driving range on my own last night, whacked balls for an hour and came home quite pleased with myself.

Like orienteering, I can feel the need to achieve that "perfect" shot. I'll be back at the range later this week.

So, am I a covert? Nah... not completely. I'm happy with the driving range (for now) and I still don't like to watch golf on the telly when I'm on the treadmill. But, next time it's on I'll defintely be checking the players' posture, form and swing...

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